GOD IS OUR STRENGTH AND REFUGE (PSALM 46)
Words by Joe Tyrpak; Music by Samuel Wesley
Tune name: AURELIA
God is our strength and refuge, a helper ever near.
While resting in His shelter, no evil will we fear—
Not if the mountains crumble into the angry sea,
Nor if the surging ocean exceeds its boundary.
A quiet stream refreshes the city of our God;
His throne stands unaffected while kingdoms rise and fall.
One word from Jacob’s Savior will melt the raging throng.
The Lord of Hosts is with us; He is our fortress strong.
Behold God’s glorious power: He makes all warfare cease.
Each weapon He will shatter; the world will be at peace.
“Be still!” cries Heaven’s Sovereign, “Be still, for I am God!
All kingdoms—all creation—will bow beneath my rod.”
Mark 4:35-41; Revelation 19:15; Psalm 46:11
The violent sea turned placid when Jesus cried, “Be still!”
Fears gone, twelve men stood gasping when waves obeyed His will.
And soon the same voice speaking will calm earth’s rebel storm.
This Lord of hosts is with us both now and evermore!
© 2009 Church Works Media. All rights reserved.
by Joe Tyrpak
Because God delights in worship that is biblical, thoughtful and passionate—what we often call intentional—please consider the following overview of the biblical texts and doctrinal themes behind the psalm “God Is a Strength and Refuge”:
This song vividly contrasts the ever-changing tumult of the ungodly world with God’s eternal stability and invincible power. The psalmist comforts himself with God’s greatness by consistently remembering God’s nearness: God is “a very present help;” “the Lord of armies is with us;” “the Lord of armies is with us!” Because the gloriously powerful God is with us in all of our trials right now, He Himself is our refuge, strength, help, and fortress.
Verse 1: The future is metaphorically described in terms of possible natural catastrophes (earthquakes and flood). Even though the future may involve great calamity, those who know God can look at it with fearlessness. They are certain that God is with them and will be with them.
Verse 2: The calm serenity of Psalm 46:4-5 sharply contrasts with the turmoil of the first three verses. The earth is threatened by an untamed ocean, while “the city of God” is graced with a pleasant river and refreshing streams. To its original readers, “the city of God” referred to Jerusalem, the place where God’s presence tabernacled among them and where God’s chosen king was enthroned. However, because of a long history of unbelief, God’s people found Jerusalem to be nothing more than a short-lived shadow of the heavenly city of God. Today, we sing these same words with eyes fixed on the heavenly kingdom of our God which will eventually conquer all the kingdoms of this world. God will quickly end earth’s rebellion with one powerful word (46:6). This is the same God who graciously chose and saved deceitful Jacob and his ungodly children (46:7). And it is the same God who is faithful to His promises and is with His people right now throughout all of life’s turmoil (46:7).
Verse 3: Psalm 46:8 calls God’s people to reflect on God’s glorious displays of power in the past. Verse 9 urges us to consider how he will display His power in the future: by ending every war and destroying every weapon. Then, verse 10, like Psalm 2:10-12, urges all of the rebel nations to submit to God in view of His soon exaltation on earth. While “Be still, and know that I am God” is often applied to believers who are going through trials, it is actually God’s command to unbelievers to acknowledge His sovereignty and repent of their rebellion before it’s too late.
Verse 4: Psalm 46 is richly connected with the New Testament. When Jesus calmed a raging sea with the words, “Peace! Be still!” (Mark 4:37-41), He was proving Himself to be “the Lord of hosts” who is sovereign over the universe. Although Jesus was “very present” with the disciples in the boat, they were not fearless, but fearful. Thus, Jesus used this as an opportunity to urge His disciples to trust Him as God by reckoning His divine power and very near presence.
The very same voice that calmed the literal angry sea during His first coming will calm the figurative angry sea at His second coming. Revelation 19 tells us that Jesus will bring an end to sinful humanity with His voice. Jesus will come on “a white horse,” will be ready to “make war,” will have “the armies of heaven…following him,” and “from His mouth [will come] a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations” (Revelation 19:15). John again emphasizes that Jesus’ enemies “[will be] slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse” (Revelation 19:21). So Psalm 46 points us to “the Lord of Hosts,” the Lord Jesus, who will end all of earth’s warfare with His mighty voice.
But for right now, every Christian must rejoice, not only in the future anticipation of Jesus’ coming in power, but in the present reality of “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). The mighty Lord Jesus Christ, the One who will soon lead a mighty army against His foes, personally indwells every believer right now (Romans 8:9-10; Psalm 46:11).